Ministry of Justice agrees to look at reviewing any laws that aren’t working
More justice is needed for cyclists and other vulnerable road users who are hurt or killed on the roads, a parliamentary inquiry heard today.
Representatives from cycling organisations British Cycling and the CTC, and road safety groups RoadPeace and the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS) told the second evidence session of the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group’s (APPCG) Get Britain Cycling inquiry that the criminal justice system is not fit for purpose in dealing appropriately with people who endanger lives on the road.
The inquiry also heard that deterrents are not strong enough to act as an incentive for people to take more care on the roads, and that the current laws are not being strictly enforced. Since the lesser offence of ‘causing death by careless driving’ has been brought into force, fewer people are being charged with ‘causing death by dangerous driving’ offences. Martin Porter QC, who gave evidence at the session, described the police as ‘spineless.’
Summing up the second session, co-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group, Ian Austin MP, said:
“Today’s hearing focused on all aspects of road safety but the most compelling argument presented to the inquiry was the fact that the justice system isn’t protecting cyclists when things go wrong. I’ve seen people get knocked off their bikes and in most instances it just isn’t taken seriously enough. I’m pleased that Martin Jones from Ministry of Justice has agreed to look at the laws concerning bad driving.”
The need for better safety measures and major changes to the road infrastructure were also discussed at length. British Cycling’s Martin Gibbs made the point that there have been no cycling deaths in Paris in the last year – “we think this is partly due to the much tighter restrictions on HVGs entering the city.” The Institute for Advanced Motorists’ (IAM) Neil Greig said: “The main reason that accidents happen is human error. We want roads designed to ensure mistakes don’t lead to fatalities.” RoadPeace’s Amy Aeron-Thomas agreed: “The main safety issues include junction design. We need to remove or reduce the dangers.”
Motoring bodies the AA and the IAM both agreed that cyclist awareness is not sufficiently covered in the driving test. The AA’s President Edmund King also spoke about the need for mutual respect on the roads – “drivers and cyclists are the same people” he said. “We need to break down barriers – change will come mainly from changing perceptions.”
Increased cycling participation was also cited as a measure that would by nature make the roads safer, although it was acknowledged that the current road infrastructure is putting would-be cyclists off.
The CTC’s Chris Peck said: “As more people cycle, drivers become more aware of how to drive with cyclists alongside.”
The case for reduced speed limits was made by David Dansky of the Association of Bikeability Schemes. He made the point that “if we share the same space we should share the same speed.”
Representatives from British Cycling, CTC, and the Transport and Health Study Group gave evidence at today’s inquiry alongside the AA, the Institute of Advanced Motorists, the Freight Transport Association, the Association of Bikeability Schemes and the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety. Evidence about the criminal justice system was covered by Martin Jones from the Ministry of Justice, Martin Porter QC, the Metropolitan Police and RoadPeace.
Separately today, the Department for Transport announced details of the £62 million investment the government is making in improving cycling infrastructure.
APPCG Co-Chair Julian Huppert MP, said:
“This inquiry is pulling together some very strong evidence from experts in a wide range of fields. It is vital that we cover every angle if we are to present the full picture to government on what needs to be done to improve cycle safety. Driver behaviour and cycle training were two areas covered today and it is essential that all road-users play their parts if we are to see real change. This inquiry is putting cycling firmly in the spotlight and its profile has been raised even further by the announcement today of £62 million to improve safety on our city streets. We need to see real commitment now if we are to make a difference.”
The next session of the Get Britain Cycling inquiry, focusing on planning and design, will take place on 6 February. As well as cycling groups CTC, Sustrans, ibikelondon and the London Cycling Campaign, the inquiry will hear from the Highways Agency and the Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation. Campaigning bodies 20s Plenty and Living Streets will also give evidence.
For more information about the inquiry, visit: https://allpartycycling.org/inquiry/